Are Bleach Fumes Dangerous? Bleach Exposure Increases Risk of Infection in Kids

A brand new study shows that one of the risks of using bleach includes raising the risk of infection in your children.

Are bleach fumes dangerous and should bleach be used regularly in your home?

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Bleach has long been one of the most common and relied upon household cleaners. It can be used for a variety of purposes, including stain removal, maintaining bright white clothing, getting rid of mold, and more. But are bleach fumes dangerous and should bleach be used regularly in your home? A brand new study shows that one of the risks of using bleach includes raising the risk of infection in your children.

Cleaning with bleach may lead to infection in kids

A study published in March of 2015 in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine looked at data from over 9,000 children from Spain, the Netherlands, and Finland. Parents of the children were asked to report the frequency of infections experienced by their child over the past year, and they were also asked whether or not they (or anybody else) used bleach to clean the child’s home at least once per week. The results showed that in households where bleach was used, the prevalence of infections was higher. Specifically, the data from the Netherlands showed significantly higher rates of influenza in children of bleach users, and the data from Finland showed higher rates of sinusitis and pneumonia.[1]

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The authors can’t be sure what is responsible for this correlation, but they hypothesize that multiple mechanisms may be at play. For one, cleaning products like bleach produce volatile compounds (which become airborne) that can be inhaled, irritate the lining of the respiratory tract, and cause inflammation, which facilitates infection. Bleach may also have immunosuppressive effects that could contribute to an increased risk of infection.[1]

Household cleaning products and respiratory problems

Several studies have found that bleach and other cleaning products are associated with respiratory irritation and respiratory problems, such as bronchitis.[1] Adults are at risk too; women exposed to the fumes from various cleaning products, especially bleach fumes, report higher levels of asthma symptoms and chronic bronchitis symptoms.[2]

Other cleaning products can be harmful to respiratory health as well. For example, kids who were exposed to the most antimicrobial cleaning products in their homes had the highest rates of allergic symptoms.[3]

Beware of household cleaning products during pregnancy, as well

The use of cleaning products in the home during pregnancy can also be associated with wheezing and respiratory problems during early childhood. One study found that young children were more likely to have persistent wheezing if their mothers were exposed to higher levels of cleaning products during pregnancy.[4]

Try natural alternatives instead

Using bleach from time to time to treat a tough stain, to get rid of some mold that just keep creeping back, or to brighten up your whites is probably okay. But regular use of bleach in your home might be exposing you and your family to toxic bleach fumes and could increase the risk for infection and respiratory issues. Try out DIY recipes for all-natural bleach alternatives like this one that can be used safely for laundry, cleaning, and disinfecting purposes.

Share your experience

Do you use bleach in your home, or do you prefer natural household cleaning products? Do you have any favorite alternatives to bleach that work well for you? Share your tips in the comments section below.


[1] Occup Environ Med. 2015 Apr 2. pii: oemed-2014-102701.

[2] Occup Environ Med. 2005 Sep;62(9):598-606.

[3] Environ Health Toxicol. 2014 Nov 21;29:e2014017.

[4] Thorax. 2005 Jan;60(1):45-9.

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Comments
  • Uhn S.

    While I try not to use bleach (it stings my eyes and lungs), I tend to turn to it when the bathtub caulk gets moldy. I’m going to try the alternatives in the link here to see how mold stands up to them.

  • Lived in a group home where they mopped with bleach everyday. Recently they mopped my bedroom floor
    That night I gagged all night. Have had throat irritation & bouts of asthma for 3 weeks now. Moved out of group home after living there 2 months but still have problems breathing

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